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Not the Same Old Classifieds Anymore

Story by Jody Garlock

When Ben Dupre decided to relocate to the Midwest from California, he spent six months scouring ads and jetting across the country. But not once did he sit down with a Sunday newspaper. "I used the internet exclusively," says the 30 year old, who landed a job at Sauer-Sundstrand in Ames.

He's not alone. Employees and employers alike are turning to the internet to find work and workers. "The employee recruitment process has shifted significantly from paper to electronic media," says Ellen Bayer, practice leader for human resources communications and organizational effectiveness for the American Management Association in New York City.

Faced with a shrinking pool of talent due to record low unemployment rates, employers are broadening their recruiting horizons. Not only are they searching in cyberspace, they're hitting the airwaves, putting up billboards, and using a host of other methods to reach prospective employees.

"People aren't giving up on traditional ways of recruiting, but they're doing the basics and then going way, way beyond," Bayer says.

The signs of that are evident across Iowa. Billboards woo workers; television stations announce local job openings, often during early-morning broadcasts. On the radio, employers hope to catch the ear of motorists. And the state's "smart move" campaign, which includes radio ads in other states, uses emotional appeals to try to get people to return to Iowa.

Becky Gardner, account manager for Management Recruiters International-DayStar Staffing in Cedar Rapids, says these "come-work-for-us" pleas are relatively new and growing. "Companies used to market how they're going to sell their products. That was the number-one focus," she says. "Now, that has shifted. Recruiting employees and retaining employees has become a major focus."

Dupre, who used three internet job boards, connected with Sauer-Sundstrand through the Des Moines-based NationJob Network, one of the nation's top five job boards. The company's growth is a telling sign in the popularity of internet recruiting. NationJob started in 1988 as a computer kiosk in malls; since the mid-1990s, it's grown 300 percent every year and averages 20 million hits a month, says Ed Linebach, director of key accounts for NationJob. Employers pay to list vacancies on the site; a single 30-day ad costs $95.

Linebach says job boards like his are an easy and cost-effective way to reach a large audience. "The main idea is that you can attract a bigger and better range of candidates," he says. "Local companies can recruit locally as well as nationally. What we do is give employers another alternative."

With NationJob's "personal job scout"-known as P.J. Scout-job seekers can tailor their search to specific types of work, salary ranges, and geographic locations. That, says Linebach, also benefits employers since they don't waste time sorting through resumés of candidates who don't match.

Dupre says using the internet made finding a job closer to his wife's native Wisconsin possible. "The internet has made job searching on a national level much easier," he says. "P.J. Scout took all the hassle out of it by presenting me only with jobs that matched my criteria."

Amy Williams, human resource administrator at Sauer-Sundstrand, says a key to recruiting via the internet is to know where the people you're after go. "You need to invest the time to research whom you want to target and what sites they typically visit," she says. "We've done that by talking with internal people and looking at various web sites they visit."

But the internet isn't the only place where business is booming. "Nationally, radio has really gathered a lot of speed for recruitment in the past two to three years," says Kellie Lala, general sales manager for KZIA-FM in Cedar Rapids.

"Society is more and more mobile and people don't have time to read the newspaper," she explains. "Radio goes with them in their car, in the workplace, when they shop. They automatically are going to hear your ad, and you might be reaching the person who just had a really bad day at work and is thinking about a change."

Some Cedar Rapids employers have also tapped the station's on-air personalities; the station routinely does live broadcasts at businesses' open houses, where they invite listeners to fill out an application or have an on-the-spot interview.

Other savvy employers have turned to billboards. "Most every form of business chooses outdoor advertising to reach people on a daily basis-even to the extent of seeking new employees," says Mary Ann Olinger, senior account executive at Lamar Advertising in Cedar Rapids. Even an out-of-state engineering firm put up a billboard in Cedar Rapids hoping to lure workers its way.

Indeed, when it comes to choosing a medium, a bit of behind-the-scenes psychology comes into play. "These days, companies are forced to go after the people who aren't looking for jobs, and that's why they're trying all these other media options," Gardner says. "It's a big step to pick up a newspaper and look through all the ads. On the other hand, that radio ad, billboard, or TV spot can attract you without you doing anything. You might say, 'I'm not miserable, but, hey, that could be better.'"

Still, employers aren't abandoning the traditional newspaper advertising, but they are coupling it with other mediums. And in some cases, they're putting a twist on traditional ads. Seabury & Smith, Inc., in Des Moines, for instance, jazzes up its newspaper ads with cartoons. Called "Workdaze," the cartoons position Seabury & Smith as a fun place to work, as well as let workers know that the company has openings for varying skill levels. "When people go through the newspaper classifieds, there are so many ads calling for their attention," says Jackie Van Ahn, vice president of human resources at Seabury & Smith. "This helps separate us from everybody else."

Whatever the approach, Van Ahn says finding employees in a tight market calls for creative thinking. "You're always out there trying to differentiate yourself to get potential employees to come through your door," she says. "I'm sure, as a whole, employers are spending a lot more money on advertising and recruiting than in the past."

-Jody Garlock wrote about Pella in the February/March issue of the magazine.

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